The Illinois Senate race has been close for months. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk have attacked each other viciously over their respective scandals, attempting to gain advantage in a tight contest. So who is ahead? Well, it depends which polls you look at. Because while Giannoulias and Kirk are the headliners, two other candidates, the Green Party's LeAlan Jones and Libertarian Mike Labno, are each pulling in enough support to sway the results of this close race.
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One note: support for third-party candidates often comes up much lower on Election Day itself than compared to the pre-election polls. In many cases, voters who were thinking of casting a protest vote ultimately pick one of the two major-party candidates. However, this effect is very hard to predict.
That said, let's break down the numbers:
The Two-Way: Giannoulias vs. Kirk
When only Giannoulias and Kirk are involved, the TPM Poll Average gives the edge to Giannoulias, 42.4-41.8:
The Three-Way: Giannoulias vs. Kirk vs. Jones
When Jones is added to the mix, Kirk gets the edge in the TPM Poll Average, 44.6-42.0-4.8:
The Four-Way: Giannoulias vs. Kirk vs. Jones vs. Labno:
With all four candidates, the TPM Poll Average swings once again to Giannoulias, who barely leads over Kirk 40.4-39.7. Jones comes in at 5.0, with Labno at 3.6: